Why a Moodle MOOC?

by Martin Dougiamas, Founder and Lead Developer

 Like many people in the education industry, I’ve been watching the recent hype around MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) come and go. It’s great to see some more attention in mainstream media about internet-based courses, and great that more people are thinking about large-scale free courses, but sad that the excitement around MOOCs seems to be misleading many people into thinking that they represent the first wave of online learning. In fact we’ve been teaching online for decades and I feel that much of the new software being developed by MOOC companies is facing the same issues that we’ve been solving in other software for some time.

 Moodle (the Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) has been around for over 15 years. Since I released the first code under an open source license back in 2001 it has had a community site that used Moodle itself. This was intentional - my idea was to jump-start a learning community around the topic of #moodle itself, a never-ending course that you could dip into at any time to teach yourself about Moodle. I’ve encouraged developers and users to use the same forums and tools so they could learn from each other and can co-construct artifacts that represent the current state of our learning about how education can work on the Internet.

 Moodle has a lot of features, and it can take quite a long time to learn them all. As an open-source learning platform, it’s benefited from the experimentation and feedback of thousands of online educators over the past years, and evolved a lot of tools that are completely unique. It’s rarely useful to learn all the capabilities in a vacuum, though - the best way to learn them is to be teaching a real course, to be open to new ideas for what you want to do and then look for solutions to each problem. Being part of an ongoing support community is ideal for this sort of professional development: our community is full of great teachers with great ideas.

 You could say that Moodle.org has always been our MOOC.

 However, a lot of people are unaware of the potential of Moodle and have told us they would appreciate a shorter and more synchronised introduction where they still get to try everything out.

 This is one of the main reasons we are running “Learn Moodle” as a more structured MOOC - to show teachers what Moodle is and the depth that it has, and to help them understand how our activities feel from a student perspective, in a way that they can apply in their own Moodle courses (whether in the free practice sandbox courses we provide here or on their own sites).

 A side benefit of running this event is that we can demonstrate that Moodle can scale to any size (and always has been able to). There are private Moodle sites out there with hundreds of thousands of active students on them, but you (and I) don’t get to use them much. This site implements Moodle on a scalable cluster to provide a platform that can theoretically cope with any number of users and courses at a low cost. We want to show you that you can use open source software to easily run your own courses (massive or not) on your own private servers, in your own language, in your own country.

 Finally, another reason for this course is to help us - the Moodle core team at Moodle HQ - learn more by actively designing and running a new large implementation of our own platform. Our systems people will undoubtedly get a detailed idea of Moodle’s performance in clustered environments, our developers will probably discover and fix new bottlenecks, and our teachers and documenters will learn more about teaching massive and open synchronised courses in Moodle and probably fix interface issues along the way. All of this will benefit the Moodle software for everyone. Moodle is an ongoing, living project and everybody will be learning!

 If you enjoy this course and want to take it further, we encourage you to look into further training options from our Moodle Partners, and ultimately you might want to try for the Moodle Educator Certificate which will give you a professional certification you can add to your portfolio. Thanks to everyone taking part in Learn Moodle. It’s sure to be an exciting month!